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Pilot-line providing highly advanced & robust manufacturing technology for optical free-form micro-structures

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PHABULOUS (Pilot-line providing highly advanced & robust manufacturing technology for optical free-form micro-structures)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2020-12-31

The urgent need to provide miniaturized optical components is at the origin of the exponential growth of the micro-optics market over the last decade, with an increasing need for this type of technology to address the challenges set by photonics applications for the five to ten years to come. The industrial demand for free-form micro-optical components is a current market reality. However, the high access barriers to pre-commercial production capabilities in Europe prevent companies, especially SMEs, from commercially exploiting this technology. Aim of the PHABULOuS project is to set up a self-sustainable pilot line for the design and manufacturing of free-form micro-optical components and their integration into high added-value products. The consortium translates urgent and high-impact industrial needs into industrially relevant processes necessary for the successful demonstration in pre-commercial production runs.
1. Mature the manufacturing processes and functionalities of free-form micro-optical components from TRL 5 to TRL 7, with an overall increase of MRL from 5-6 to 8-9
• Predictive algorithms: To facilitate the analysis of designs from a manufacturability perspective, a CAD-modeling tool has been created that automatically extracts the height and local surface and highlights those areas, where pre-set manufacturable height and slope values are exceeded.
• Ultraprecision micro-machining technologies: The following main bottlenecks were identified:
o Surface quality – Laser-based polishing is being developed to improve it without compromising shape fidelity.
o Origination speed – All available origination technologies are being optimized to reduce the manufacturing time by orders of magnitude.
o Lead times – The following steps are being optimized: preparation, origination queuing, data exchange, predictive design tools, and metrology.
o Form accuracy – To improve form accuracy down to 400nm, characterization capabilities are being evaluated to measure the surface profiles with such resolution/accuracy.
o Originated area – Most origination technologies in PHABULOuS are intrinsically capable of producing masters with areas in excess of 10cm2.
• High-throughput up-scaling technologies
Step-and-repeat (S+R) & tooling:
o The S+R upscaling (for roll-to-plate, R2P and roll-to-roll, R2R) is being implemented for a maximum possible size of 270×630 mm2 and seamless stitching.
o The tiling upscaling (for R2P and R2R) is being developed for a total area of 400×500 mm2 with an average stitch width and height of ca. 20±5µm and 3±2µm, respectively, and a tile alignment off-set below 6µm.
o The S+R upscaling (for wafer-scale) is currently being upgraded to include a better alignment methodology to reach an absolute position accuracy of 1m over 200mm wafers.
o Tooling – Process development is on-going to achieve the final objective of 400×500mm2 shims.
Handling/cleaning & packaging/transport: Different cleaning processes and their impact on tool lifetime have been assessed.
Replication processes:
o Wafer-scale – A new material combination for sub-master fabrication was established and optimized machine parameters were defined for yield increase.
o R2P: The reproducibility of the resin dispensing was optimized and different materials have been tested to reduce shrinkage to ca. 6%.
o R2R: Process optimization is ongoing via optimization of tool design and process parameters, as well as testing of different coating methods.
o UV replication materials: Several existing materials were/will be evaluated in conformation tests, while new material formulations were developed to tailor the material properties.
• Surface coatings: High reflection metallic coatings with minimum mechanical stress and conformal coating on micro-structured surfaces were obtained.
• Metrology: The characterization portfolio of PHABULOuS was defined and a Round-Robin test was started to assess the resolution and measurement time figures.

2. Implement six use cases demonstrating prototypes manufactured with the PHABULOUS pilot line in their operational environment (TRL 7)
The six use cases were refined according to manufacturing limitationsand the most appropriate manufacturing technologies were selected.

3. Establish an open-access distributed pilot line infrastructure with a single entry point to exploit the full industrial potential of FMLAs
• European Network & Ecosystem: The structure and the modules of the Eco-system Management Platform were defined.
• Contractual framework & internal processes: Both the technical and the organizational guidelines were set, which the PHABULOuS Pilot Line will follow.
• Legal entity: The PHABULOuS Pilot Line Association was established as an independent legal entity in the form of a non-profit making association with thirteen founding members.
• Promotion of the pilot line: Several actions were performed in Year 1 to start actively promoting the pilot line, including the project website, a comprehensive event and communication strategy, print media including the project handbook.

4. Validate PHABULOUS pilot line services through implementation of 20 external pilot cases
During year 1 several actions were performed to prepare the successful implementation of the planned 20 pilot cases, including a first survey of market readiness for free-form micro-optics.
PHABULOuS has the ambition to provide industry with easy access to a high-level state-of-the-art pilot line and related services and will
• offer access to design and simulation platforms that will accelerate design process by 90%
• benchmark the available characterization equipment and create characterization procedures
• extend the capabilities of the origination technologies beyond the state-of-the–art (see Table 1)
• optimize the S+R process to achieve seamless and durable tools for large-area replication
• provide three different technologies for UV replication (see Table 2)
• aim to offer customized UV imprint material formulations (see Table 3)
• provide integrated services for optical coatings on micro-structured surfaces

Expected impacts:
• Sustainable European pilot line for optical free-form micro-structures: aim of PHABULOuS is to create the infrastructure for pilot manufacturing of free-form micro-optical components.
Management: the operational structure of the PHABULOuS Pilot Line Association was defined (see Figure 1) and a detailed business plan will be outlined (see Figure 2).
Offering: The PHABULOuS pilot line will be offering a broad portfolio of services. Based on the customer´s request, a customized set of services will be offered and implemented.
Business development: A dedicated business development team will be established and a European ecosystem will be created.
Economic impact: During the project, the pilot line will focus on the implementation of at least 6 use cases and 20 pilot cases. Final aim will be to reach full sustainability.
•Customer approach - Significant time to market reduction thanks to accelerated pilot line processes: As Figure 3 shows PHABULOuS addresses the reduction of the time to market through optimized customer handling as well manufacturing flows
•Increased competitiveness of European industry through improved photonics technology uptake: The PHABULOuS pilot line will provide SMEs and mid-caps with an easily accessible set of services and encourage large companies to undertake more disruptive innovations.